AIR+23 Jun 2020

Cyber security gets overstretched in the era of remote working

In today's interconnected and technologically-advanced world, cyber risks have been put in the spotlight once again as an increasing number of cyber attacks are taking place at a time when people are engaged in remote working from home amidst a pandemic.

Most recently, it was reported that Australia’s government and institutions are being targeted by ongoing massive cyber attacks.

Thus, it comes as no surprise that edge computing – a technology facilitating remote working – has been identified as one of the top 14 emerging risks facing the insurance industry and society in Swiss Re’s recent SONAR report.

Swiss Re rates this risk as ‘high’ and categorises it as short-term risk which will persist for less than three years.

For the insurance industry, the most affected business areas from this emerging risk are property and operations.

Commenting on the threat posed by edge computing, cyber AI firm Darktrace Asia Pacific managing director Sanjay Aurora said, ”From a cyber security perspective, edge computing can be a blessing and a curse.”

Along similar lines, the SONAR report discussed how edge computing on the one hand complements cloud services by transferring the processing power from cloud platforms to where the data is created and consumed – minimising latency in data transactions.

On the other hand, it was revealed that edge computing leads to higher cyber exposures in the insurance industry and other sectors. It also results in exposures in professional and consumer solutions involving mobile devices.

The report noted that while cyber incidents can cause machine failure or malfunction and even business interruption, liability may be more difficult to assign in case of failure in the edge computing world – emphasising the complex impacts of overstretched cyber security.

The nature of edge computing

Edge computing often takes place in remote environments and under conditions of limited physical security. Thus cyber risk potential is heightened from under-service, negligence and blind spots when security concerns are moved to the periphery.

Edge computing leads to an increase in potential attack surfaces as there is increased complexity of networks with the addition of more and evolving interconnected devices to a network.

Elaborating on this point, Mr Aurora said that throughout homes, smart speakers, ‘phones and tablets blend the sensitive information fed to them seamlessly with cloud-processing services without the need to update devices as the manufacturers ‘take care of security behind the scenes’.

However, he pointed out that certain manufacturers let security ‘take a backseat’ in the rush to market certain smart devices. This means that it is not uncommon to buy a mobile ‘phone that will never again be updated once it is owned for six months.

“When the onus is placed on the consumer to make security updates, it is not just that individual consumer who is at risk – many cyber attacks begin with the mistake of a single user, enabling the attacker to access downstream to as many innocent customers as possible,” he said.

This goes to show that the poor implementation of edge computing can expose system vulnerabilities which hackers could target using latest innovations in AI to search through codes for entry points and deploy intelligent malware.

Mr Aurora believes the responsibility lies with manufacturers to embrace edge security solutions like AI to monitor their digital environments constantly and respond to threats automatically when things inevitably go awry.

“We simply cannot expect every user to be diligent. When it comes to consumers, buying choices and regulation will play a part in determining if edge computing poses privacy and security threats,” he said.

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